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Gregory Levasseur (Director) - The Pyramid
Grégory Levasseur is a French filmmaker and screenwriter, best known for his work in the United States and his frequent collaborations with childhood friend Alexandre Aja. We caught up with him as his latest movie, The Pyramid, was due to be released in cinemas...
Sci-Fi-Online: What was the first thing that scared you in a film?
Grégory Levasseur: I would say that my first scare came not from a movie but from Thriller; from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I watched the video when I was three years old, and it ruined my whole life up until I was about 7 years old! It was awful, a great scare. It’s funny, because when I watch it today, it’s pretty intense; I’m dealing with werewolves, and zombies... And Michael Jackson is pretty scary.
SFO: What attracted you to this project?
GL: A lot of things. The premise of the movie; the idea of using satellites and finding buried sites. The idea of the whole movie taking place inside a pyramid. The tension, the suspense, the claustrophobia, the investigation, and the mythology. It’s everything I love in movies. You set a goal and you get the concept, and I said okay, there’s fun stuff to do with this movie.
SFO: Horror fans have seen it all; do you think it's harder to scare a modern audience, or are there some things that will NEVER get old?
GL: Today there are tonnes of horror movies, zombies, survivors, everybody is aware of these movies today, and it really becomes a challenge to make the audience scared.
Every year there is a new audience coming, who probably don’t know the movies we watched when we were kids. As an example, Ashley from the movie, she is a big horror fan, and she was really happy to play the part I wrote. But when I talked to her I was really surprised to hear her references with films like Hostel. I love that kind of movie, but it’s not the kind of reference I would have if I was talking about horror, I’d be talking about movies from 10 - 20 years back, so there is always the new generation.
It’s true that sometimes for that the audience some movies are not original enough, there’s the feeling that it has a formula, and it’s a shame that there are too many movies like this, and the audience can’t stand it. It’s a shame that the younger audience are not aware that there are better movies, and they only want to watch something that came our recently, like a sequel, which is exactly the same thing that they watched a year before. It’s true, today its more of a job, it’s more difficult.
SFO: Because of the location of The Pyramid, was it a challenge to balance the claustrophobic atmosphere while ensuring that the audience didn't get bored of seeing the same walls?
GL: Exactly, it’s not just a movie and a fear of being scared, there is something else. There is this back story, this mystery around them and we want to find out what it is. The rhythm of the movie helps quite a lot, to not always be in the same situation, always screaming, that makes up the pace of the movie. When the plot doesn’t have enough, I was careful.
SFO: Quite a lot of practical effects were used in The Pyramid, do they bring the best out of the cast in a way that CGI can’t?
GL: When they’re running through the sands, in the pyramid, it can’t be any other way. Going through the sand shower, and it was pretty intense, they did it all day long, and then Ashley had to do it again the next day because she gets trapped in the sand, so we really put her in that scene.
At the beginning I wanted to add the sand in using CGI, because I thought it was impossible to throw the tonnes of sand on her face, but she said: "No! No! I can do it". We asked if she was sure, so we did it, and at the end when she was screaming and saying: "Please! Please! Please!" She was not joking, she is not playing anymore. It was really scary.
We didn’t have a large budget for CGI, we had so much on the side that you didn’t want to put it in using CGI. It’s important that the actors are facing the effects truly. Its better when you do stuff like this, to do it on the day, and clearly see what you have, and not dream to see what the CGI will do to resolve a problem.
SFO: Considering his notable background in comedy how did you find James Buckley playing a more serious, darker role for this film?
GL: He is amazing, very funny, and I like the fact that his character is like the audience’s perspective. It was great to have him with all his irony, joking about the situation. I think that it’s a great input to have in the movie, a comedian who knows perfectly the comedy, and knows how to act, and at the same time stay very serious. I think James played a lot with his character.
The first time I met him while we were shooting, and he arrived two days before we start. He had got his flight, and they had lost his luggage. So we’re in the desert, and he was without any clothes. The crew who were all Moroccan or French, and they gave him his characters clothes. So the first time I saw him coming up, he was like “wheyyy” you know, with his characters clothes, getting right into the character, right in front of me. And I think he played with that, until the end of the shooting, to be inside his character.
I think that’s good for the audience. It’s not a comedy, but it brings some reality. We were talking about investigation, and tension, but even a tiny punch line is great for the pace.
The Pyramid is released in UK cinemas on 05 December 2014